By William Haderlie / November 25th, 2016
The next major entry in one of the most beloved video game series of all time was due to arrive in September of this year after a long gestation period. However, Final Fantasy XV has now been delayed until November 29, 2016. While I, like most people, find this news to be a bit disappointing, I would also rather see this major entry be in its most complete form when it sees the light of day. So I err on the positive side of the delay reaction, more than the negative side. I will be reviewing the game for Operation Rainfall when it does arrive later this year (I’m going to assume for now that it will not see another delay).
In the meantime, I will be posting my top list of Final Fantasy games as a countdown until the release of the next entry. I can almost guarantee that our lists will be different, and I encourage discussion. This will also let our readers know some of the history of this franchise, and my own personal thoughts on it. This ranking is my own opinion and does not represent the views of the rest of the Operation Rainfall staff, but it is a creation that I am proud of, so I stand behind it.
Countdown List Rules
These rules are rather arbitrary, but I had to decide on a list of them just to make it more concise and clear. The first rule is that I will only put one version, the best version I’ve played, of each game. And the second rule, and possibly most contentious, is that I am listing any game that contains Final Fantasy in the American title of the game. That does mean a couple games featuring Final Fantasy characters, but not having that title, will not make the list. Examples of games featuring characters would be Chocobo’s Mysterious Dungeon or Ehrgeiz: God Bless The Ring. And that also means that there are other titles which were not originally Final Fantasy games in here as well, such as Final Fantasy Legend. Other than that, this list is just to have some fun and have a conversation while we wait for the next release in this classic JRPG franchise. There are 34 entries on my personal list, even discounting the different versions, so plan on a long series of articles, and I hope that you enjoy them.
Top Final Fantasy Game Countdown
34. Final Fantasy XI
33. Final Fantasy Record Keeper
32. Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles
31. Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call
30. Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII
29. Dissidia Final Fantasy
28. Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy
27. Final Fantasy Mystic Quest
26. Final Fantasy XIV
25. Final Fantasy Adventure
24. The Final Fantasy Legend
23. Final Fantasy Legend II
22. Final Fantasy Legend III
21. Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift
20. Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings
19. Final Fantasy Type-0
18. Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII
17. Final Fantasy Tactics Advance
16. Final Fantasy II
15. Final Fantasy III
14. Final Fantasy
13. Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII
12. Final Fantasy VII
11. Final Fantasy XIII
10. Final Fantasy VIII
09. Final Fantasy X
08. Final Fantasy XIII-2
07. Final Fantasy X-2
06. Final Fantasy IX
05. Final Fantasy Tactics
04. Final Fantasy V
By process of elimination, you can already have a good idea of what games remain on my list. So I can easily point out now how near and dear to my heart the SNES (Super Famicom) era of Final Fantasy was. You can also say that about Squaresoft games in general. Because they are not named Final Fantasy, games like Chrono Trigger and the Secret of Mana (also it’s sequel which never came out in the US) will not be featured on this list. But they would be very high along with Final Fantasy IV-VI on my list of all-time favorite games. Over the years I’ve examined many times whether that love is affected much by nostalgia, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it is not really. For one, due to my nature, I am not greatly affected by nostalgia for anything. And there is also the fact that I’m such an old fart (by this industry standards) that the SNES era was part of my teenage years, not my childhood. In fact, when the SNES was released in the US, I had a job and so I was able to purchase it with my own money on day 1. But the largest reason I know it’s not just nostalgia is because I’ve played all the SNES era Squaresoft games multiple times since, and if anything my estimation of their quality has grown.
The nostalgia glasses would work even less on this particular game, because (like many other fans) I was not able to play this game for the first time until 2002. By then I was long past college and was a working adult. Even though this game and Final Fantasy VI were developed at the same time, for some reason this game was left behind in Japan until it was released on PlayStation 1 as part of the Final Fantasy Anthology. This game was the second to the last game for series creator, Hironobu Sakaguchi (the last being Final Fantasy IX), but for some reason, they chose only the first entry by a new director for publishing outside their own country. That is rather unfortunate because they had a really great game on their hands here. And the translation and performance issues on the PlayStation 1 version did not do it any favors either.
The Greatest Hits version of Final Fantasy Anthology did fix some of those issues, but that version of the game is still not my favorite. For none of these games is the iOS or current Steam versions of the game my favorites either, they are kind of terrible. So for this game, you unfortunately, have very few good options. But the release that far exceeds any other, in my opinion, is the version of Final Fantasy V released on the GameBoy Advance. Not only does that version retain the beautiful pixel art from the SNES version, but it also has a better translation than the Anthology, and it has some wonderful new dungeon and Job content.
For better or worse all Sakaguchi games have a fairly simple story, usually involving the destruction of crystals that are protecting the world. The one major exception (within the Final Fantasy label) is Final Fantasy IX, which did not have crystals really play a major part of that story until the end. This game was almost a retelling of Final Fantasy III with its crystal story and also it’s Job system. But this was definitely the more grown up version of that game. The story was definitely longer, but it was also a much more emotional and well-written journey. I would say that the story and characters are a little weaker than Final Fantasy IV, but the combat and character growth systems were much more advanced.
The Job system is the primary reason why people still visit this game so often over the years, and why it’s image has grown over that span. One of the more common ways to play this game, or see it played, is during gaming events or challenges (such as Extra Life) watching someone play this game with a very inconvenient Job combination and watch them struggle to beat it. But part of the appeal of doing that is that it’s fully possible to do so, a full party of White Mages may make this game inordinately difficult, but it’s a challenge that is possible to still beat the game. Another appeal of doing this is that this game is widely known to serious Final Fantasy nerds as one of the most difficult games to bear that name. Not only are some of the later bosses of this game extremely challenging, but it has some major optional bosses (one example is seen above) that blow away most RPG bosses in difficulty.
The Job system is deep enough in this game to really reward you for a ton of extra effort put into mastering multiple Jobs and combining your party in interesting ways. That is something that was not a part of Final Fantasy III, so it was a pretty drastic improvement even beyond the greater class selection. Many people still consider this game to be the definitive version of Job/Class changing style JRPGs. Even if you don’t consider this version to be the all time best example, it cannot be denied that it was really great and that it made a huge impact on other JRPGs that came later. Even with the challenging fights, this game is still amazing to go back and play after all these years. I have beaten the last boss on this game at least 10 times, and I doubt that I will stop going back to this game anytime soon. Just, please Square Enix, give us easier access to a great version of this game. Take that glorious GameBoy Advance version of the game and release it on PC or PS4 or Nintendo 3DS. I would love to pay your company for this game again if only to experience it on my modern devices.
Final Fantasy AnthologyFinal Fantasy VFinal Fantasy XVFinal Fantasy XV CountdownGameboy AdvanceJRPGPlayStation 1PSNSNESSquare Enix